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Slamdance 2012: Alexandra Berger Talks “Danland,” Finding a Narrative in Verite Style and Being a Woman Documenting the Porn Industry

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 26, 2012 4:13 PM
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  • 0 Comments
One of the highlights at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival is the documentary "Danland," which follows the romantic pursuits of a well-known producer and star of amateur pornography. The film begins with this man, ‘Porno’ Dan Leal, on his wedding day, but we can’t really see who the bride is. Then we go back a few years and watch his relationships grow and die, some resurrected, others gone for good. It’s truly a movie for equal enjoyment among couples. There’s the porn stuff for the guys and the romance for the girls. And for just general doc lovers it’s an entertaining look into a strange and complicated world. 

Sundance 2012: Top Online Shorts "Long Distance Information" and "The Debutante Hunters"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • January 25, 2012 7:23 PM
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  • 1 Comment
All of the nine shorts Yahoo and the Sundance Film Festival have put on the web are pretty good. It’s an impressive crop, and I’d say more consistent than a lot of the stuff festivals have put online in the last year. Yet in any batch of films a few rise to the top. I’ve rounded up the other seven, and the oddly consistent problem they have. Here are my two favorites and some gushing about why I think they’re absolutely worth your time.

Which Documentaries Could Be Remade as Narrative Films?

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 24, 2012 4:02 PM
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  • 4 Comments
It doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes documentaries are adapted, or remade, into narrative films. That’s what we call the fully dramatized versions anyway, ignoring the fact that docs have narratives too. Past examples include Werner Herzog’s "Little Dieter Needs to Fly," which the filmmaker turned into Rescue Dawn, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s "Party Monster," which the duo made into a film of the same name, and I include biographies like Rob Epstein’s "The Times of Harvey Milk" even though it wasn’t directly related to Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk.

"Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston" is a Casual Celebration of the '70s Fashion Designer

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 20, 2012 2:41 PM
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There are few kinds of documentaries I dislike more than the amateur first-person film that pretends to be about a famous person (or persons) but really ends up being primarily about the self-involved director and his or her fandom (or investigative journey). The sort that begin with redundant narration from the director along the lines of, “I always wanted to make a film about...” Exceptions do occur, and I’d cite docs like “Sherman’s March” (and Ross McElwee’s other works), “Roger & Me” (and some of Michael Moore’s subsequent work) and “Gasland” as classic successes of the style. And the recent Toronto hit “Paul Williams Still Alive” proves miraculously that they can even work when the filmmaker is a pest -- something that typically hurts these films.

The Doc Option: Instead of "Red Tails" Watch "Wings for This Man"

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 20, 2012 11:21 AM
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George Lucas is back with his first non-"Star Wars" or "Indiana Jones" production in nearly 20 years, and it's a World War II actioner about the African American pilots and crewmen known as the Tuskegee Airmen. If you're already familiar with the history of these heroic men, by all means go see the guy behind "The Phantom Menace" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" seem to do for the sky over Europe (with help from Cuba Gooding, Jr.) what Michael Bay did ten years ago for Pearl Harbor (with help from Cuba Gooding, Jr.). If you're not, then I have another Doc Option for you.

Slamdance 2012: Doc Competition Offers Sex, Rebirth and Anonymous

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 20, 2012 9:41 AM
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One thing I began to notice last year is that many documentaries are a bit too long. I think some of this has to do with the desire to be sold as a “true” feature length film, although in this day when VOD, online streams and TV formatting overshadow theatrical for nonfiction distribution and viewership, I don’t know why going 90 minutes and above seems favorable to filmmakers when the content just isn’t there. One of the best docs of last year, according to many doc critics and fans (including myself) is Jarred Alterman’s "Convento," which comes in at a mere 50 minutes. We need more of this.

Slamdance 2012: "Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story" is an Inspiring Documentary About Our Collaborative Future

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 19, 2012 11:16 AM
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In Bob Bryan’s low-budget 1995 documentary “Graffiti Verite,” L.A. street artist Tony Quan, aka ‘TEMPT,’ talks about how artists in his community feed off each other like jazz musicians. “Graffiti is very communal...very interactive,” he says. A clip of this interview is also now featured in the new film “Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story,” and it provides a great jumping off point with which to consider the overall point of this inspiring documentary.

"The City Dark" Will Make You Scared of the Light

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 18, 2012 10:23 AM
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This review was originally published during the 2011 SXSW Film Festival on March 13, 2011.

"Crazy Horse" is... A Documentary by Frederick Wiseman (So Why Am I So Ambivalent About It?)

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 17, 2012 7:57 PM
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It may be sacrilege to say this as both a devout Frederick Wiseman fan and a heterosexual male, but “Crazy Horse” doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. This latest documentary from the man behind such nonfiction classics as “Titicut Follies,” “High School” and “Welfare” takes us to the eponymous Paris cabaret, at which nude women perform tacky, cheeky dance routines that seem appropriate for an early ‘90s Playboy video, if only they weren’t so kitschy. With a faux fly-on-the-wall perspective, we look in on the making of the club's new show, Désirs.

Frederick Wiseman on "Crazy Horse," Shooting Nudity and Why Technique is Only 40% of Filmmaking

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • January 17, 2012 10:36 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Frederick Wiseman was once known as the guy who documents institutions. Now he is an institution, a living legend of American documentary who has made nothing but significant observational nonfiction works for 45 years. His films are distinctly subjective while passing on an illusion of complete objectivity. Somehow both first-person and fly on the wall at the same time.

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